What Is a Running Lane In American Football?

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What Is A Running Lane In Football?

A running lane is a route or path on the field that a running back can use to gain extra yardage or move the ball downfield. It’s created by offensive linemen blocking defenders in front of the runner. The running back can then follow this lane for additional yardage before he reaches the end zone.

The size and shape of each running lane vary depending on the number of blockers and defenders on the field and where they are positioned relative to each other. 

Designing Running Plays

When designing running plays, offenses will consider the running lane’s width and the number of defenders in the box. The goal is to create a wide enough lane for the running back to get through while also ensuring fewer defenders than blockers.

This can be accomplished by using different formations, motioning players before the snap, and using play-action passes to draw defenders away from the intended running lane.

The Role Of The Offensive Lineman

The main goal for offensive linemen when trying to create a running lane for their team’s runner is to block out any defenders in front of them. Offensive linemen use their hands and feet to push away defenders near them while pushing their bodies into position to create space between themselves and any potential tacklers.

This creates a “pocket” around the runner, allowing him to move safely downfield with minimal contact from other players. This allows the runner to make his way downfield without worrying about being tackled by an opposing player. 

Offensive linemen must also be aware of defenders coming up from behind them to back up or seal off any potential gaps that could lead to a tackle or loss of yards. Doing this can give their team’s runner more time on the field and help keep their offense moving forward.  

How To Open More Running Lanes

Double-Teaming a Defensive Lineman: Doing this involves two offensive linemen working together to block one defensive lineman. This can create a hole big enough for the running back to get through.

Angle Block: This is when an offensive lineman blocks a defensive lineman at an angle rather than head-on. This can create a seal off the edge of the running lane, allowing the running back to cut upfield for a bigger gain.

Drive block: To open up a running lane. This is when an offensive lineman drives his body into the defensive lineman in order to push him out of the way. This creates a hole for the running back to run through.

Getting To The Second Level

Once the running back gets to the second level of the defense, there are typically fewer defenders and more space to run. This is where they can use their speed and agility to make plays happen. Running backs often try to find a hole in the defense and then cut upfield to pick up extra yards, resulting in big plays.


A running lane is important to American football—it allows offensive players to move downfield without worrying about getting tackled by opponents. Offensive linemen are responsible for creating these lanes by blocking out any defenders in front of them while also sealing off potential gaps behind them.

With proper execution, creating a successful running lane can be one of the most effective ways for teams to score points during games.